The path to transformation is nothing less than courageous. It means we opt in to finding some way of seeing the world and our place in it in an entirely different way – in a way that prevents us from ever returning to old ways of seeing and being in the world.
The question is, is it worth it? To explore this I have opted out of some of my ‘traditional’ circles and gravitated towards new friends and associates – the brave transformers. Those people who believe in something beyond themselves, who have a kind of peace and settlement to their life, no matter the context. Leaders and friends in the space of giving back, driven by contribution and still achieving amazing things in leadership and life.
The conversations are remarkably different. Conversations for people and planet. Conversations of coming to terms with personal struggle, collective resistance, triumph and yet, finding joy in small moments – sometimes, just a shift in a perspective. The mental toughness they demonstrate is balanced by a deep compassion for the world and those they touch in it.
This year, my living in this space was affirmed by a charity event, a 500km bike ride in 5 days in southern Thailand. I wish to declare that I am not a biker. In fact, I did not even own a bike at the time of saying yes. I just said yes. So did 50 other entrepreneurs and the experience was life changing! Imagine 50 ‘somewhat unfit’ business owners and leaders taking 10 days out of business to participate in a collective giving project – one that raised $300,000 for communities that could never have dreamed of the gifts this kind of money affords.
Our ‘effort’ required 8 months of training, raising $5,000, and organising business affairs in my absence. There were times on the way where I wondered why I was doing this, where my muscles ached for the 80km practice rides. There were days I simply didn’t have the time to practice and the business called me more than cycling. But I found time. There were times I was challenged by asking my community to donate, feeling awkward about the request. But I pushed through and asked. Incredibly, more than $5,000 poured in from my tribes around the world. One supporter donated a whopping $2,000! I was completely carried to the start line by the goodwill and generosity of my village.
Before I even left, I learned that no matter how much I perceived I was ‘up to’ in this lifetime, there was space to give more. I had no idea what I was in for when I landed in Bangkok. However, the prelude to the ride had me consider that it was worth it straight away. We met some recipients of our fundraising before we even began. Already I was a better human. Prateep, a short ‘giant’ of a woman, had dedicated her life making other’s lives better. I had a sense of who I wanted to be in the world and knew that no matter how much I hurt, I could pedal with that inspiration.
Instead of seeing a slum, I saw through it to the beating heart of the communities within, and an organisation of sorts that worked just like any community I have lived within in a first world country. Instead of seeing a rehabilitation home for boys affected by violence, drugs and alcohol, I saw the light in the young boys’ eyes, a game of soccer that bridged cultures and a magical place of possibility and future potential.
On the last day, when we rode in to the orphanage, more than 100 children screamed and squealed at our arrival and I saw how this all made sense. I was completely overwhelmed with emotion. We all were. Each of the 50 riders were overcome with a sense so far beyond ourselves, a sense of connectedness, a sense of purpose, pride and community. In these moments we know who we are. I knew who I wanted to be and my life to date seemed to make more sense. Every single challenge, the 7-days per week business that I sometimes complained about. My interests, my studies and the gifts in my bucket I was so deliriously grateful for. Better still, I knew the choices I’d made to that very day were the very things that shaped the opportunity to have that moment.
So did the choices of other great leaders. Peter Baines and Hands Across the Water. A man so moved by the Tsunami of 2004 that he created Hands to offer leaders like me this very chance to participate in global giving. Dale Beaumont and Business Blueprint. A man who mobilised a community to participate in this ride and who does so every year for the sake of giving back. Laurene McKenzie who planted the seed in the swimming pool in Cebu one year earlier, and the influence who had us say yes.
Of course, these times allow us some space for reflection. About how fortunate we are. About being conscious citizens and seeing how far our contributions and creations can go in terms of planetary gifting. As business owners and leaders, the power of course corrections and awakening to how influential we can be when we choose to be.
The bike ride felt like a background story. It was tough, no doubt! But we met coaches and ‘experienced’ riders who taught us the value of team work in the pack riding and how the power of team can lift everyone over the line – even the most unlikely riders. This experience beautifully describes transformation – I no longer see the world and my place in it in the same way. This experience, like all hero’s journeys (thank you Joseph Campbell), is 100% aligned with the journey of leadership transformation. Following an instinct that there’s a higher call. Listening to an outrageous offer and challenging ourselves to hear it well beyond our comfort zone. Committing to the path. Realising that ‘it’s not what you thought’ – it’s actually harder, longer, deeper. Moving through the trials. Experiencing breakdowns and moving to break throughs. Finding helpers and inspiration on the way. Finding others in a village and community that share common stories. Pushing on. And as you push on, the deep realisation that it’s all about the journey and not the destination. Reflecting, integrating and rising to be the best version of self. Conquering by softening and finding a place inside the crazy system.
So, for me, the path to leadership transformation is no longer shaped around the question “If you knew what it took… would you” but by a provocation. ‘If you knew what you’d get, you would!”
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